Memories Of Journeys With Indian Railways

Memories Of Journeys With Indian Railways

Indian Railways is the lifeline of this country, running more than 20,000 passenger trains and over 9200 freight trains daily, both on long-distance and local commutes. I can't imagine there is anyone in this country who has not traveled at least once with the Indian Railways.

And I'm sure we all have our train travel stories--good ones, bad ones, crazy ones, funny ones, adventurous ones, maybe even naughty ones! (wink)

Today is #ThrowbackThursday. So I'm sharing with you some of my personal memories of journeys with the Indian Railways.

Some Unforgettable Memories Of Journeys With Indian Railways

I have never had the opportunity to be a regular local-train commuter. So all my experiences are from long-distance train travels only. Here are some of them that I'll probably remember as long as I live.

  • The Food.

    Not the food they've been serving in the last 15-odd years. (The less said about it, the better!) No, I'm talking about before that. Maybe 20 years ago. When their "vegetarian" lunch and dinner actually had some vegetables, and didn't just pass off a paneer (cottage cheese) curry as vegetable! (LOL!)

    I remember there being thin & soft rumali-rotis, in stead of the leathery, mostly half-cooked parathas!

    And the "pot-waali chai"! Do you remember that?

    They gave you the option of heaving the ready-made mixed tea or the "pot tea", with plain boiled water in a thermos, along with tea bags and pouches of sugar & milk-powder. You could make your tea as per your taste.

    I remember we took the Patna Rajdhani once, from Patna to Delhi, and we ordered this "pot tea". By the time we returned a week later, Mr. Lalu Yadav (the then Rail Minister) had changed the entire catering, and the new team had no idea of what we were talking about. When we asked them for "pot tea", they simply brought the same ready-made mixed tea in a thermos! :|

  • The People.

    I have often traveled alone in Indian trains. And while I have heard of so many tales of bag-snatching, drugging, and robbery in trains, I have been fortunate to have always come across good people during my train trips in India.

    The guys have always agreed to swap their lower berths for my upper berth. They've helped me with my luggage, and even haggled with the coolies for me at NDLS! :D Oh and this couple I met during my train journey from Patna to Chennai, in 2006, they became such good friends that I'm still in touch with them!

    Like I said, I've met some really kind and helpful people in my train travels. Not just me, in fact, but my entire family.

    I remember when my grandfather died and we had to go to Calcutta (now Kolkata) from Kanpur, at a day's short notice. I was 12 that time. We could only get Waitlisted tickets. Not even an RAC. The TTE took pity and allotted us one berth, even though there were other waitlisted passengers before us. So there we were... mom, dad, my sister and I, four of us packed on one berth. That's when another couple there, who had two reserved berths, gave us one of theirs. Just like that. Said it's just one night after all, and we would at least get to stretch our backs for a while. We were really touched by their kindness.

    Another time, our train got cancelled and we had to take general tickets on the next day-train out. The entire coach was filled with soldiers (Indian army or CRPF, I don't quite remember). Their luggage was strewn across the floor of the train. There was hardly any space to put your foot. Those uniformed guys told us to walk right over the bags to our cabin. And when it was time to get off, we were worried we won't reach the door in time. But the same guys helped us out, passed along our luggage too! Smiling all the while.

    Can never forget these memories, right? :)

  • The 1st Class Coach.

    The old non-AC one. Have you ever traveled in it? Do you remember when they discontinued it?

    I have such fond memories of trips in that coach. It used to become our own private cabin, as there were four of us in the family. We'd hardly see another soul throughout the journey, except for the TTE and the catering staff. It almost felt like having the whole train to ourselves! :P

    Oh and weren't the toilets in the 1st class coach bigger than they are now in the other coaches? Or did they just seem so 'coz I was so small? Dad says it's the latter. :|

  • The Games.

    So many games we used to play on our train trips! Do you remember?

    Counting the poles/trees was definitely popular when we were little. And board games. Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Checkers. Even Monopoly was possible in the 1st class coach.

    And yes, packs of playing cards always accompanied us on all our train trips. And my favorite pocket video game too! Then, of course, we had the paper & pen games, like TicTacToe and "Name Place Animal Thing" (NPAT).

    Have you ever played NPAT?

    What other games did you play as a kid during your train travels?

    Memorable Journeys With Indian Railways
    Dad and me, in the Jaipur DEE Double Decker
  • The Waits.

    The looooong waits at the railway station. Do you remember those? :D

    Before we had these internet apps that give us fairly accurate running status of trains, we only had the telephone enquiry numbers, which you could hardly ever get through to. And even if the train was late by a couple of hours, their announcement would always be "train no. so-and-so apne nirdharit samay par chal rahi hai, aur platform no. so-and-so par so-and-so baje pahunchegi"! :D :D :D

    If the train was late by more than 2-3 hours, then they'd finally acknowledge that the train was delayed! But by that time, you'd already be at the station, right? Waiting it out on your sturdy luggage! Listening to their announcements on the loudspeaker, informing you of the delay in installments. And every time you heard your train number, you'd get up from your suitcase, craning your neck towards both ends of the line, trying to catch the very first glimpse of your train, like an excited First-Year at Hogwarts, trying to catch his first glimpse of the school! :P

    We have spent innumerable hours like this at the railway stations in India, our only solace being the A.H. Wheeler book stalls, and parents who never discouraged us from reading! :P

    But there were also times when the train got so delayed that they had to cancel it! Do you remember those? :D They were absolute torture! Total "excitement-killers"! Dad would have to go to the cancellation counter, get a refund, and book fresh tickets. (That's actually what happened when we had to take that train with all the soldiers, in that incident I mentioned above.)

  • The Adventures.

    Have you had any big escapades during your train travels?

    I remember two.

    One was a minor adventure. In 2004. We took a trip to Dehradun-Mussoorie from Delhi, and the BPO friend, who booked our tickets for us, put the return-date wrong. Instead of September, he put October! (#facepalm) We only happened to notice it about 15 minutes before the arrival of that train! Had to rush to the ticket counter to get new tickets! And, God knows how, but we managed to get on that train before it left the station! :D

    The other incident happened when I was still in school, during a Kanpur to Patna journey, when our train got derailed. Not a major incident. Nobody was injured. Some repair-work was going on along the tracks, so the driver had already put us on minimum speed. Despite that, the last 2-3 coaches went off the tracks. So we had to stop and wait for a "rescue train". We waited for hours, but the "rescue train" never came.

    This was during peak summers (summer vacations in school), and we soon ran out of drinking water. The train was stuck in the middle of some farmland, with nothing but crops for miles. Then the farm owner showed mercy on us and started his bore-well, so we could refill our bottles and water campers.

    Eventually, some guys on the train discovered that the DGP, Bihar (or some other senior police official, I don't really remember for sure) was also on the same train with us, and that he was getting his separate "rescue team", even as we had been completely forgotten about. So these guys went and stopped that officer from leaving without doing something for us. Finally, someone came up with the plan to relocate the passengers of the derailed coaches into the other coaches, disconnect those coaches from the rest of the train, and proceed to our destination.

    Next day, we read about our derailment in the newspaper... about how smoothly the relief operations had been carried out, how they had sent us food and other aid, and how we'd all been shifted to another relief train. :|

  • The Smells.

    No train memoirs can be complete without a mention of the smells, right? :D

    All journeys in Indian trains are marked by some characteristic smells. You simply can't NOT experience these smells, as long as you have a functioning olfactory system!

    • The smell of food during meal times. Parathas and achaar, mathri, samosas, some very appetizing homemade dishes in people's tiffin-boxes, even the smell of the non-veg curry from Railway's meal packs!
    • The smell of sodden socks. Yucks. You simply can't avoid it if your are traveling overnight in a 3AC or 2AC coach! Especially during the summers and monsoons. As soon as people start settling in for the night, i.e. they take off their shoes, you're hit by this smell.
    • The smell of the farts. Hehehe! :P Yupp, that's what greets you in the morning. When "gastronomical pressures" build up, but the toilets are either occupied, or too dirty, or (Heaven help you!) there's no water! :D :D :D

Memories Of Journeys With Indian Railways
Pin this image to share this 'walk down the memory lane' with others

So these are some of my most unforgettable memories of journeys with the Indian Railways.

What has your experience been like with them?
Do you recall any memorable incidents from your train travels in India?
Any adventures?
Any scary episodes?
Interesting people you might have met?

This is my tenth post for A to Z 2019.

I have attempted this challenge twice before, and published one kindle ebook out of it. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

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A Hundred Quills said...

You covered all the aspects and brought a bag full of memories along. I remember making so many friends during my train journeys. Haven't travelled in one for a long time now. But your post makes me want to do so soon.

Sonia Chatterjee said...

I have read this thrice before writing a comment. This is the most beautiful piece that I've read this week. It brought back so many memories of my childhood. The first train trip from my small town to Kolkata, the first Rajdhani express trip from Kolkata to Delhi. I think I time traveled with you today.

Shilpa Garg said...

Such a lovely post, Kadambari.
I have never had food served in the train. NEVER. In Rajdhani and Shatabdi's I just have packaged food like biscuits, curd, cold drink, ice-cream etc.
Yes, have met some good people and some annoying ones too. I hate people who talk loudly or play videos or songs on their phones for the entire compartment to hear. And I meet such people the most. Sigh.
The waiting time have reduced considerably as most of the trains run on time these days.
I had a misadventure last year. I gave the wrong booking details to the travel agent. I boarded the train only to find that my ticket was of the day earlier, meaning that the journey was already over for that ticket. TTE suggested that I get down at the next station and buy the general ticket and he'd convert it into AC. I told him that I will not get down from the train and he can charge me whatever due penalty.
Smells... some food smells are great and make me nostalgic and some... well lesser said the better!! :D

Namratha said...

Haha.. wonderful memories indeed. I always bought a comic or two on every train journey and read them on the way. That was my ritual. Oh I remember the smells. And the waits. I enjoyed your fun narrative style on this post

bellybytes said...

What a delightful read! I remember train journeys for sure - and the smells and the food. My memories pre-date yours when the trains weren't so crowded and the food was actually yum I can never forget the creamy scrambled eggs on a thick buttered toast that we used to get on the Deccan Queen. The trains were much cleaner then and the toilets didn't smell of urine. But the part I can never forget was the coal engine which left our faces black when we stuck them out of the window. The trains weren't air conditioned in those days and we would put up wet towels on the window to get cool air.


So many memories!
And this changing of upper berth and lower berth is a concern for most of us..ha ha!
Once traveling from Delhi to Gujarat on train with family, we complained to caterer about food and tried writing it in complaints book, he did not allow us to do that!
In my childhood days have traveled a lot with my parents on train to different destination and our favorite past-time was antakshari!
Of course Smell and People - so integral to train journey and so are smelly people 😉

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